Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Word is "Stump"

Despite certain journalists' misuse, "stomp" refers to what you do with your foot; either to hurt, to emphasize or to dance. "Stump" refers to what politicians do when they campaign. The dying art of writing seems already grimly reaped from among professional journalists.

11/01/2006, 1:30 p.m. Update: The Memphis stomp reference via the "misuse" link above has been corrected, but the Google cached error remains here. The editor was late on the uptake.

¡Viva North End!

I continue to defend the "North End" moniker for the area between Downtown, the north loop of I-65 and the river to developers who are inclined to call it "Uptown." You can see their defense of "Uptown" for yourself, but my contention is that we are one of the few Nashville residential areas that is clearly bounded and cut off from sprawl, much like the North End in Boston, which is hemmed in on three sides by water. I argue that our geographic boundaries make us much more like Bean Town's enclave than it does Chicago's, Manhattan's, or Houston's "Uptowns."

Bob Corker Endorses Wilson County School's Promotion of Christianity

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

According to today's Knoxville News Sentinel:

Corker also stopped in Wilson County, just east of Nashville, to support an elementary school that faces a lawsuit for allowing a group called Praying Parents to meet there.

"I think any school would be so pleased to have parents who gather once a month - not in the presence of students - praying to give the faculty and students strength and guidance," Corker said.

"We all know the strength that comes from prayer; I pray 10-12 times a day on the campaign trail," Corker said.

The article does not say whether Corker also supported the Praying Parents' practice of passing out pamphlets to pupils informing them of which ones where being prayed for. Nor does it specify whether Corker approves of Lakeview School's active promotion of Christian prayers at the flag pole.

Local TV coverage of the Lakeview contoversy can be found here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mardi Gras King Was on Lower 5th Avenue Tonight

Back to the Future of Neighborhoods: Summit II

Tonight was the second community meeting for neighborhood leaders sponsored by the Neighborhoods Resource Center. Turn-out was probably half or less-than-half of the first meeting's attendance. I recognized several council members in the crowd tonight, as well as 2007 mayoral candidate, Bob Clement.

Most of the evening was taken up by the break-up of the larger group into small group discussions on topics like accountability, economic development, codes, education, housing, etc. Each group received vision statements from the NRC regarding the discussion topic based on the first meeting's feedback. The small group I was in was the "Government & Citizen Participation" Group, which considered ideas like holding elected officials responsible for regular, direct communication with citizens and for developing close working relationships with neighborhood leaders to improve the community. We also discussed encouraging neighborhood groups to organize candidate forums, voter registration drives and efforts to recruit "neighborhood-friendly" candidates to run for office (although some pointed out that recruiting might be illegal for associations that are incorporated or that do not have a political action committee).

My general impression of the this meeting was that it was less productive than the first one. We were handed 13 pages of feedback material that we had to digest quickly, which bogged down discussion. I came away with the impression that the group had lost some of the momentum of the first meeting and that the vision statements were kind of nebulous and lacking strategic focus and concrete steps for achieving goals. Hopefully, they will pull things together for the final meeting in November.

Will They Be Giving Away Biblical Bobbleheads, Too?

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

According to volunteervoters.com, Governor Phil Bredesen is sponsoring an event called "Faith Night" at the Howard School Building polls tomorrow night.  Reportedly, "members of local congregations have been invited to join their pastors in casting their votes."

About Last Week: Blogger's Excuses

They finally explain themselves for last week's outages.

New Watchdog Blog Launch

Don't be blind-sided by extreme religion in Tennessee. Visit often.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Republicans Accept $$ from Gay Porn Movie Producer

Looks like karma from the the Republican TV ad against Harold Ford--which saturated local commercial time and which said that Ford accepted money from porn movie producers--bites back at the RNC. Fire in the Hole.

A Disturbing Comment

From an anonymous commenter in response to my post that included an explanation for my voting "YES" on the independent auditor amendment to the Metro Charter:
The flaws with Charter Amendment 3 are more serious than you note. The Mayor proposed a selection method for the auditor that would have provided insulation from the political process; the Council amended it so that THEY are the ones who choose the auditor, and stacked the committee so they have more votes. This new auditor will be beholden to the political whims of the Council -- and is anyone happy about that? Watch for a Council Member Near You to be handed the auditor position sometime soon if this passes, as political payback.
Now I regret my vote. We do indeed need to keep our eye on how council members line up on the audit committee and who lands the auditor position.

In the mean time if you have yet to vote, do as I say and not as I do: vote against the independent auditor amendment. Cancel me out and then some.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Columbia Pastor Selectively Uses Scripture in TV Interview

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Maury County Pastor Carol Jacobs told News 2 while speaking of her church's planned boycott of Wal-Mart in an interview this week:
We believe that there's a biblical standard that is set in the Word [a.k.a., Bible], that the gay and lesbian lifestyle is not condoned or encouraged in the Word of God.
The problem with this point of view is that Ms. Jacobs, who seems to embrace the Bible as authoritative, is in fact only pulling out certain scriptures to use on her behalf, while ignoring others that do not serve her.

How would we know this? Because first of all she is a woman in the role of a pastor at Trinity Family Church. The Bible she claims to embrace includes the following:

I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. [St. Paul]
So, her very position in her church shows that she ignores some scripture in favor of others.

We also know of her selective use of scripture when she tells News 2 about her church's vision:

Our vision of our church is how to successfully train and teach people to live successfully in their generation.
The overwhelming bulk of scripture says nothing about success and more times than not addresses the way that the poor and other social outcasts are treated. In fact, the New Testament tends to characterize success as the path to hell (for example: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to get into heaven"; and from St. James: "Come now,you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you"). Again, by emphasizing success, this pastor is ignoring large portions of the Bible that consider such accentuation to be perverted.

Here are some other Bible teachings that conservatives tend to ignore:

If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. [Exodus]
Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. [Jesus]
Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none. [John the Baptist]
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.[Leviticus, which is the same book that religious conservatives like the Columbia pastor quote to condemn interaction with gays and lesbians]

I find it difficult to take conservatives at their word when they tell me that their opposition to gays and lesbians is based on a strong reading of the same scripture that they--and most other Christians--selectively quote from.

Germantown Residents to Meet with Developers

Two via Historic Germantown:
Germantown Partners will be present at a [Wednesday, November 1st, 5:30 p.m.] meeting with the neighborhood to discuss their project at the northwest corner of 5th and Monroe. The architects on the project from Bauer Askew Architecture will be there to present thr project. They will also discuss the details of their current request for variances on that lot.
The Germantown Neighborhood Association will be holding a [Monday, October 30th, 6:00 p.m.] meeting with the developers who are planning the project at the corner of 4th & Monroe. All neighbors are invited.

The developers, Joey Smith and Randy Chastain, have refined the architecture and will present their schematics to the neighborhood.
Germantown has down the model for developers meeting with neighbors as they plan their projects.

Friday, October 27, 2006

WKRN Video Journalist Fails to Mention that Church Boycott is a Matter of "Almighty Dollar"

Originally posted on Free Tennessee:

News 2 Video Journalist Mick Scott reports on the Columbia Church boycotting Wal-Mart for affiliating with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.  He said that the pastor of the church believes that Wal-Mart's decision was motivated by the "almighty dollar."  He did not note that the pastor's endorsement to her church to boycott Wal-Mart has a much to do with dollars as it does with divinity.

He also let go unchallenged her definition of gay and lesbian orientation as a "lifestyle," as if being attracted to the same sex was more like choosing between ski boats and less like being subject to hormonal and emotional drives.

Immortalized in a Student Catalog

Local musician Claire Small's latest CD is showcased in Watkins College of Art & Design's student catalog. We already knew the music to be awesome, but it is the art on the CD that is mentioned as "award-winning."

Claire tells me that her next local gig will be at the Family Wash on Friday, Nov. 3 at 9 p.m.

Columbia Boycott & GOTV

Originally posted on Free Tennessee:

Columbia nondenominational church boycotts Wal-Mart after getting an e-mail sent from the conservative American Family Association that the corporation joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Also smells like GOTV for the November ballot against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Tennessee.

Outside Looking In

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Christianity Descends into Blackmail

This "new kind of Trinity" is truly a blackeye for Christianity. Is paying people in a underdeveloped nation to convert qualitatively different than holding a gun to their head and demanding conversion?

Another Developer Trying to Call the North End "Uptown"

Will Sanford has already dealt with the flawed logic of recent attempts by Metropolitan 8 developers to call the North End, "Uptown." But at Tuesday night's Salemtown Neighbors meeting, I was approached by a different developer about calling this area "Uptown," based on the logic that north is "up" from downtown. I used Will's argument that Uptown should be adjacent to Midtown (which is adjacent to Downtown), so technically "Uptown" should be somewhere on West End, rather than here. That seemed persuasive to him. Then I mentioned that I prefer to refer to the Germantown-Salemtown-Buena Vista-Hope Gardens area as the "North End," because we truly are an "end" (unlike West End or the East End) cut off from sprawl by the I-65 loop and the river, while still oriented to Downtown. He told me that he liked that idea, so I believe that I made my own small contribution to turning back the "Uptown" moniker.

A Cellphone No Doubt Endorsed By the ACLU

If ACLU lawyers are really in it for the money as some allege, then I would assume that they are all sporting the latest obscene mutation of cellphones, priced at nearly $1,300. Don't want to expend that infinitesimal amount of energy opening your phone? This one has a tiny motor that will open it for you; just what an ACLU lawyer needs after a taxing day of persecuting Wilson Co. Christians.

Note to the Religious Right: Greed Abounds Everywhere

In the current Wilson Co. flap over school administrators allegedly promoting Christianity to students, we keep hearing supporters arguing that the ACLU "sees dollar signs" and is taking the case only for the money, in spite of the appearance of proselytizing at Lakeview Elementary. If the allegations that administrators are promoting evangelical Christian prayers at the flag pole and that parent groups are distributing Christian flyers to students are true, then the ACLU has a case no matter how much they would stand to get paid for taking it. Wilson Co. Schools seems to have opened that door (let's not forget their Christian New Testament giveaways in Lebanon schools).

But why impugn the motives of ACLU lawyers with greed? We could apply the same flawed logic to Christian ministers who support Wilson Co.'s establishment of religion: they see dollar signs and tax-sheltered or free housing in the ministerial profession. I don't see lawyers going into the much maligned ACLU doing so for the money (especially when they could make more as corporate lawyers), no more than I see teachers going into teaching for the money. Money may be a motivating factor for some, but in the case of the ACLU, you're going to have to demonstrate clearly with more than just rumor and urban myth that it advances beyond exception.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On the Riverfront Development Front

I was unable to attend tonight's third Riverfront Develop-ment Forum, but News-Channel5 carried the important news that the plans include a fountain in the river itself to draw people to the Cumberland, as well as the expansion of Riverfront Park and an "urban forest" on the East Bank. News 2 and Channel 4 News ignored the meeting on their 10:00 broadcasts, choosing instead to run with information about a manatee in the Mississippi River, which I suppose might loosely count as a story on some kind of development on a riverfront somewhere.

Excuse My Irritability, But

We lost our nice little backyard view of the Werthan Lofts water tower today to the North End building boom. It really pulled the yard together.

Waterlogged/Water-Deprived Update

Metro Water finally turned our water back on around 5:30 yesterday evening after a private construction crew pierced a water main yesterday morning. I finally found out from a Metro Water employee that the private crew had received permission from Metro to dig up 5th Avenue and that they did not pay attention to marks in the street that told them where the water main was. I was also told they the property owners would be paying for all costs associated with the accident.

Reflections on My 2006 Early Voting Experience

It wasn't exactly like going to the Piraeus with Glaucon to offer up prayers to the goddess, but yesterday, I made my way to the Howard School Building to vote early. These are my thoughts on the event (which would have been more interesting had I been able to recount an Athenian procession):
  • Independent candidate Ginny Welsch was the only breathing candidate in any race garnering my vote this time around.
  • I would have held my nose and voted for Phil Bredesen if he needed me to, but he already has enough Republican votes to destroy his rival. The last thing we need is the captain of the prayer warrior bunker in charge of state government. But I don't think that the man who insured Pacman Jones' arrival in Nashville by bringing the Titans here is too worried.
  • Harold Ford indeed lost my vote. He needed my vote more than I need him in the Senate. Despite the rationale of the party faithful who keep insisting that we need to work on getting a Democratic majority, I don't believe that Blue Dog Democrats would behave any differently with their party in power. In fact, the Republicans have shown us for the past 10 years that power corrupts. Take Ford's vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act and add more power and tell me what you get. Besides, why send a Democrat to the Senate to do a Republican's job of taking away our civil liberties? That only leaves Democrats with bad cred. If Corker wins, then the opposition is clear and unclouded. I also want my Democratic critics to answer some questions: what is your limit? What line does a Democrat have to cross before you say, I cannot in good conscience vote for this poser? Or should we just ignore all heinous records and elect Dems for the sake of electing them? I'm not that kind of Dem. Finally, we're going to be hearing a lot of media comments from now until election night that the results are a repudiation of the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress (the only question being, "Will they be a clear and strong repudiation?"). As long as I am participating in this repudiation, the vote I withheld from Ford constitutes a repudiation of the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress. Believe it or not.
  • I voted NO to both state Constitutional Amendments. In the case of #1, the government should not be deciding who gets special marriage and family tax breaks based on who they sack out with in the privacy of their bedroom. Now if you want an amendment encouraging unqualified monogamy, we can talk.
  • I voted NO to Metro Charter Amendment #1. The property tax referendum amendment is a prescription for taking power out of the hands of the people pressuring their elected representatives and putting it in the hands of special interest lobbyists like Ben Cunningham and all of the horn honkers over at Tennessee Tax Revolt. By making tax increases subject to popularity contests, we become beholden to those groups who can mobilize a critical mass of a minority of voters to sway our city's future. Also, there are indications that this amendment is unconstitutional and would damage Nashville's credibility with lenders.
  • I voted YES to Metro Charter Amendment #2. The Mayor should be giving the state of Metro address in the most public venue. I've criticized Bill Purcell for this before.
  • I voted YES to Metro Charter Amendment #3. We should have an independent auditor, and I'm glad to see that Mayor Purcell's very rigorous self-audits have basically pushed the Metro Council in that direction. But there is a possible flaw in this amendment in the fine print. The audit committee will include the Vice Mayor, Director of Finance, and two Metro Council members. It will also include an accountant. The real head-scratcher for me is the final member, who will come from Chamber of Commerce. Is this committee truly independent if it includes a business community representative without balance from any other special interest? In theory, the council members on the committee are supposed to represent public interests, but we've seen the council at work this year, and if they are in bed with business, where is the balance going to come from?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Speaking of Water ...

One of the plans for the development of the Neuhoff Complex in East Germantown includes establishing an "International Center for Living Watersheds." According to the Neil M. Denari Architects:
The mission of the Water Center is to educate the public about how the precious element of water is collected, used, and often wasted in our contemporary world. Founded by the Cumberland River Compact and sited at the Neuhoff Development north of downtown Nashville, the H2O Center is a living model reflecting the scapes of both the natural and built environments. As a visitors and educational center, the programs include exhibition spaces, a 100 seat lecture hall, offices, a riverfront caf�library [café/library?], and a store for selling merchandise related to the phenomena of water and urban ecologies.

But most importantly, the green roof and it soft undulating geometry literally captures rain water to irrigate the rooftop plant material and to channel water into various pools and small wetland ponds. The low profile building allows the visitor to reflect on the runoff, recycling, reclamation, and consumption of water. Even during dry times, the building circulates both gray and clean water around the interior and exterior spaces, creating a descriptive process of how water moves and is collected.

2016 UPDATE: this got picked up by the Nashville Urban Design Program.

Got Water?

Is This What They Mean When They Tout "Running Government Like a Business"?

At about 10:30 this morning, a private construction crew hit a water main, thus turning 5th Avenue in Salemtown into a creek and depriving us of our tap. Gallons and gallons of water flooded 5th, flowed down Garfield, and interrupted repair work subcontractors were doing on 4th Avenue Metro fire hydrants. In less than an hour, Metro Water Services turned off the main, and crews were sweeping chunks of rock and dirt out of the driving lanes, but who knows how much water and tax money was wasted by this episode. I called Metro Water Services and asked if the crew had the authority to dig up 5th Avenue, and they told me that they could not give that information out.

Remember Summer Best Back in the Good Old World

Monday, October 23, 2006

Net Neutrality Stands a Better Chance if Dems Take the House

Net neutrality's proverbial David--to AT&T's Goliath of privileging net traffic that pays them more money--may have one more rock up its sling if Democrats take back the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Two Democratic advocates for net neutrality--Rep. John Dingell and Rep. Ed Markey--stand to chair the committees insuring the existence of a public Internet free from corporate regulation by a cadre of suits that includes the guys in the Batman Building. The Republican-controlled Congress has bowed to the communications industry's corporate lobbyists (our own Democratic Representative, Jim Cooper, also caved to AT&T and Comcast). So, a Democratic Congress may breathe fresh air into protecting net neutrality. The bad news is that AT&T has already been lobbying state legislatures hard to get free of franchise rules that would have bolstered net neutrality. So, more work will have to be done to find a way to bar corporations from regulating what we consume online.

The Starbucks Halo

Mainstreaming an alternative aesthetic puts the buck$ in Starbucks.

Meanwhile, Salemtown/MetroCenter has found itself in Starbucks Nation (or should that be "Starbucks Salon"?), with a local branch about to open at the corner of 8th Av. and Dominican). Can you feel high culture coming? It's hard for me to object to a Wi-Fi hotspot close by.

In unrelated news, the Coffee House slated for the Summer Street development in Germantown will not be affiliated with any chain, national or local. A Germantowner is in the process of closing on it.

Polychromatic Salemtown

Is Salemtown getting its own set of "Painted Ladies," more modest than the ostentatious Queen Annes of Alamo Square? Salemtown seems to be breaking out of the neutral-color mode it's been in for the last couple of years, and some new builds seem to be decking out in spectacular fashion. Let's hope this trend holds.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What's In Store for Declared "Unlawful Enemy Combatants"

When the government suspends our legal due process and the centuries old safeguards of habeas corpus, then it can do anything it wants to people:

And if you believe that it will not happen to ordinary Americans like you and me, you'll need a dose of Professor Jonathan Turley's realism about how America has fundamentally changed since last week's signing of the Military Commission's Act:

Where were you? What did you do when this thing was signed into law?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Trace Falls

It's hard to believe the fairest month of the year is almost over. Our October weekends have been packed with the celebration of fall. The third weekend is no different; it's for seeing the fall colors. We drove down the Natchez Trace to Leiper's Fork and back.

Where do they come from: these beautiful colors, as sweet as Tupelo Honey? Do they sit inside and wait until the water hoarded all summer freezes in veins and then do they turn it to wine for the eyes? And why do we make loitering pilgrimages to see them at great heights and in the lowest hollows? What is about the commune between the colors and us that is so fulfilling? And is it mutual?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Theological Debates Might Involve Spirits

Some of the more significant discussions I've had about ultimate concern and social ethics were "on tap."

Watchdogging Tennessee's Religious Right: Wilson County Tries to Roll in the Hay with Religious Indoctrination

Nashville Scene has the goods on the sectarian curriculum that Wilson County is trying to sneak into its schools under the argument that the Bible will be presented as a historical artifact. The curriculum is offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which claims through its founder that 16 school districts are already using it. Though the founder refuses to name the districts, I would be interested to know which ones are using it and why they feel the need to hide rather than promote that fact. Anyone out there know of a school district teaching bible classes already?

Let's monitor Wilson County: their school board votes in December whether to establish religion in their public schools in 2007.

But I've also got a bone to pick with Scene reporter P.J. Tobia's characterization of NCBCPS's mission, which he says is "to spread the Protestant Christian reading of the Bible." There is no one Protestant Christian reading of the Bible. The sheer number of denominations and un-affiliated Protestant bodies shows clearly that Protestants do not cluster around a single reading of the Bible. In fact, the Bible tends to divide and fracture Protestants from one another. The mainstream media needs to be a little more theologically savvy.

Crime Alert: Description and Details on Hope Gardens Shooting

The following is from incidentlog.com:


Sounds Fair to Me

Last night this school district voted an eight and a half percent raise for the Director of Schools. That’s all the teachers want.

- -MNEA President Jamye Merritt to the Nashville City Paper

While the social conservatives are trying to promote teach-to-test incentives for teachers in order to erode public education, Pedro Garcia's pay raise looks more like a bid by local business community leaders to encourage a corporate model in which salary and job security is scaled up at the top and a few throw-them-a-bone incentives scatter along the bottom of the education food chain. The social conservatives erode public education; the corporate conservatives erode institutional fairness. It's a one-two punch, and further proof that if the teachers do not have a union, then no one else will represent their interests when the School Board divides the pie.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Do Kurds Engender the Same Local Conservative Backlash That Hispanics Do?

The Mexican Border has become a symbol in Nashville's political life because it is a lightning rod for many on the right who claim to have a problem with speaking Spanish and harboring illegal Mexican aliens. But Council Member David Briley pointed out to me at lunch the other day that, because of INS policy, large numbers of Kurds have relocated to Nashville. This morning's City Paper brings word of violence involving Kurdish gangs (but whom is NCP reporter Jared Allen assuming are the traditional gangs? The Jets and the Sharks? Cue music: "When you're a Jet you're a top cat in town ...").

Yet, I have not seen any political ads with candidates walking a Kurdistan border and telling us that these immigrants bring gang violence to our shores as they tell of Mexicans. What are the chances that we will see an anti-Kurd backlash rivaling the anti-Mexican one in Middle Tennessee?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Latest Pre-Supper Snack Recommendation

Grab a bag of Baked Ruffles.

In a finger bowl mix one part chili-pepper-infused olive oil and one part Balsamic Vinegar. Dip Ruffles in the concoction and munch away.

Wash it down with a bottle of Shiner 97 Bohemian Black Lager (a seasonal brew that I pick up at J & J Market near Vanderbilt). The smoky, almost-chocolate taste of the lager compliments the salty Ruffles, the fiery oil, and the tangy vinegar.

That is some good eating.

Faith, Freedom, and Our Collision Course with the Coming Tribunals

In the wake of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Walter Wink's perspective is oh so relevant:

Taking up one's cross refers specifically to Rome's instrument of intimidation and execution. It reminds us again that following Jesus' liberating way puts us on a collision course with oppressive regimes and institutions, which will resort to any means necessary to crush resistance. By voluntarily and deliberately facing the prospect of death, one is freed from its power as a deterrent. "Just as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence," taught Gandhi, "so one must learn the art of dying in the training for non-violence" [Engaging the Powers, 1992].
Religious conservatives who bemoan the government taking their tax dollars or who gnash their teeth that public school teachers cannot lead their classes in Evangelical Protestant prayers can only be judged to be speaking metaphorically about being threatened by government. The literal threat of the government taking our inalienable rights and detaining and torturing is now on top of those citizens who oppose the Bush Administration (even on Christian grounds).

Remember George Bush's statement: "You are either with us or against us." We can only conclude that those of us who continue to criticize the Bush policies are not just in metaphorical danger of losing the privilege of paying less taxes or the convenience of hearing our own prayers in public schools; we are in literal danger of being declared "unlawful enemy combatants" and being detained without legal recourse. That is quite a cross to bear.

Clayton on 6th Cast Hosts Mad Platter Reception

Thanks to Jim Creason, Jeremy Gearheart, Will Franks, Jeff Morgan and whoever else organized last night's wine and cheese meet-up at Mad Platter for inviting neighborhood types like me to meet and greet the principals in the development of the Clayton on 6th. We continue to be impressed here that the Clayton team seems to understand the import of involving neighborhood leadership in the promotion of their developments. I also had the privilege of a good chat with Lynn, the urban designer of the Clayton, who claims to know nothing about blogging, even as she is about to launch her own blog with the assistance of the Tennessean on emerging East Nashville architecture. I will link her blog when I get more details on that new effort.

How Harold Ford Lost My Vote

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford joined the Tennessee congressional delegation in voting nearly unanimously three weeks ago in support of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which George W. Bush signed into law today. (Only Jim Cooper voted against it; kudos to Congressman Cooper). After much thought, I have decided that I cannot in good conscience vote for a man who supports the notion of detaining American citizens without the writ of habeas corpus. My Democratic friends need not bother to tell me how important taking back Congress in November is. Taking back Congress matters little to me when we face a bleak future of omnipotent Bush-picked tribunals declaring anyone an "unlawful enemy combatant." Congress has made itself moot in such a world.

The Democrats are in worse shape than merely lacking majority power; they lack any sense of duty to protect Americans who otherwise cannot protect themselves. Harold Ford should be held responsible by voters for not embracing that duty; my only way of holding him responsible is to choose not to vote for him in November. I will not simply go with the increasingly surreal and ghastly flow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Today Despotism Became the Law of Our Land

Today George W. Bush became the first American president to give himself--with the rubber stamp of Congress--the absolute power to declare any American citizen whom he believes to be hostile to the United States an "unlawful enemy combatant" and to be shipped to Guantanamo prison camps or domestic detention centers (currently being built) without the right to a fair trial. Today George Bush signed the Military Commissions Act; and today for the first time in my life, I did something I have never before even contemplated: I became a card-carrying member of the ACLU. I did so because the federal government is coming to take some people's civil liberties, to wrench their God-given, inalienable rights from them. Today someone else will disappear. Tomorrow we could be among the "disappeared." May God have mercy on us for seating a despot with the passage and signing of the Military Commissions Act.

Late Wallace MNEA Resolution Defeated

District 19 Council Member Ludye Wallace attempted to introduce a "late" resolution (i.e., a bill not on the original agenda) at tonight's council meeting that would have asked the Metro Nashville Education Association to reconsider its vote to turn down private donor incentive pay for Alex Green and Inglewood teachers based on student test performance. Wallace maintained that the bill was an "emergency," because Council would not be meeting again until after the private offer was slated to be withdrawn. Another council member objected to Wallace's motion, thus defeating it immediately.

Neither elementary school is in Ludye Wallace's own district. I wonder whom he is doing favors for on this one.

Meanwhile, Metro Funds Go Out the Back Door to Subsidize Private Organizations

While the Metro School Board stands poised to accept private funds for paying teachers, Metro tax dollars may be dispatched to subsidize private interests pending Metro Council action tonight. The council is considering four resolutions--three sponsored by Charlie Tygard and one by Ed Whitmore--that would spend some of those $1.95 million discretionary funds that the council voted for itself out of the recent windfall of previously uncollected property taxes. The following private groups are poised to receive Metro tax subsidies if the bills are approved:
  1. Youth, Inc. (link) -- $1,000 for recreation and sports
  2. Operation Stand Down Nashville (link) -- $2,500 for cost of clothing homeless veterans
  3. The Jewish Community Center (link) -- $5,000 for swimming pool upgrades
  4. Eighteenth Avenue Family Enrichment Center -- $8,000 for students and teachers
The spending of the discretionary funds is about to begin and we need to keep an eye on where they are going. Admittedly, it is legal to spend them on private non-profits and I do not have objections to allocating some Metro funds to non-profits where Metro services are unavailable.

But these funds are also designated for public projects, and so I would argue that a significant percentage should be plowed back into the Metro programs, since the funds were collected from public taxes. For instance, why fund private youth and family programs when many of our community center programs could use more funding? Why pay a private community center for pool upgrades when we have public swimming pools that need improvements? Those are questions that I hope are asked of Charlie Tygard and Ed Whitmore at tonight's meeting. While the funds are based on councilmanic discretion, they are also subject to public approval through the Metro Council, and requests to subsidize private organizations and ignore Metro programs is unacceptable.

Drive-by Fifing

The Camel's Nose Under the Public Education Skirt

Two probabilities resulting from transfusing public education with private dollars:
  1. Parochial strings: schools will be less beholden to the public for what and how they teach, and they will be more beholden to the rich philanthropists and private interest groups who give them money. This is how privatization begins.
  2. An excuse to defund: the presence of private money will become a future reason that conservatives use to suppress or slash funds for public schools. This is how things fall apart.
I hope that the teachers union does not negotiate away the public interest in the welfare of our children.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New Coffee Joint on the North End?

John H. has pictures of his sighting at the new Summer Street development.

Today's Musical "Say-It-Ain't-So"

I just found out that Creedance Clearwater Revival was not from Louisiana or anywhere close to the Delta, in spite of their swamp-influenced music. They are originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm not saying that I like their music any less, but "Born on the Bayou" has lost a little charm for me now.

Greensboro City Council Member Blogs

And she doesn't hide behind cryptic names, like "The Insider." I wish we could see more of our council members openly blogging about their service to Metro.

Lunch with David Briley

I had lunch down at the Downtown Arcade this morning/afternoon with declared vice mayoral candidate and at-large council member David Briley. This is one of a number of meetings that Mr. Briley is having with individuals across the community. Our conversation--on a wide array of subjects from our children to what I wanted from Metro government to ideas for single-family, high-density developments for the Jefferson Street corridor--was engaging and enlightening for me. I learned quite a bit about local political dynamics and the various personalities who make up the leadership core of our community. He also told me that he is definitely considering a run for the Mayor's Office in 2007. After our chat, I can tell you that should he jump in with both feet, I would no longer be leaning to support him. In the churn of my feelings about the 2007 mayoral field, the prospect of "Mayor Briley" now rises to the top. Our meeting confirmed my previous impressions that he is an intelligent leader who would make a capable Mayor. What did I learn that surpassed my previous impressions? That he has a strong commitment to working, if elected Mayor, with council members to generate a functional and less fractious Metro Council. While that would leave less fodder for gad-fly, hyper-local blogs, it would definitely be better for Nashville.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Over the Top

I met my $100 donation goal for Friends of Bicentennial Mall State Park this morning. Thanks to all who helped me help them out.

Oktoberfest Traffic Swells into Salemtown Today

This is the first time I've had trouble finding a place to park since I moved to Salemtown. No complaints, though.

Paulaner 5-K Veers Past Salemtown

"Hey, where are ya'll's Oktoberfest steins?"

The Day Dawns Oktoberfest

This morning I got up early and dug my 1 liter Paulaner Oktoberfest beer stein out its year-long hibernation and walked down to Morgan Park. While dawn is too early to drink beer (no cracks from the peanut gallery about it never being too early to drink beer!), I did want to welcome this day in the very place where Germantown's great festive ode to the German imbibing tradition began: on hollowed ground that 100 years ago was Nashville's Beer Garden. Morgan Park was founded in 1909 after the city's Park Board purchased Germantown resident Frederick Laitenberger's German Beer Garden, which had occupied the site for some time. In a place where 100 years ago people were imbibing, forgetting their troubles and generally celebrating life, I wanted to welcome this day with an empty stein, anticipating the fullness yet to come.

So, Prost! and Zum Wohl! to you all; and to those who come this way, enjoy Germantown's Oktoberfest!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Metro 8 Renderings Are Up

I heard from a Metropolitan 8-connected fellow over the weekend that we would start to see information on the website this week, and it is starting to materialize as you can see by the renderings below. More renderings on their website. Watch for content on Salemtown and the North End in the future. That is under construction.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Does Tygard Think Metro is Made of Money?

At next Tuesday's council meeting, Charlie Tygard will introduce a bill requesting that the Parks Department reimburse patrons of the TACA festival at Centennial Park who were towed after they parked on the grass because Parks "made no effort to warn patrons ... that parking on the grass was prohibited." Tygard, who counts himself among the council's fiscal conservative bloc, is essentially asking Parks to spend more taxpayer money on disaffected drivers. This is a memorializing resolution, so Parks is not bound to follow it if the council adopts it.

We didn't have any problems finding out that we could not park on the grass when we attended TACA (and to be honest, whenever I've parked on the grass for events in the past, I knew that I was taking a risk of getting towed, even as everyone else was doing it; but I accepted the risk). Parks did put signs up, so the charge that they made "no effort" is exaggerated. But if Metro gets in the habit of reimbursing people for ignorance of the laws, then I reserve my right to complain in the future when they do not notify me personally of any changes that cost me money.

I've always heard that ignorance of the laws is no excuse. Charlie Tygard may not agree.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Worst Public Playground in Nashville

If there is a more archaic and rundown playground in Nashville than the one in Morgan Park, I have not seen it. The North End community still languishes in a holding pattern awaiting the promised upgrades to Morgan Park. The playground conditions for neighborhood children are shameful.

The sparse and skeleton-like playground features sit a mere stones-throw from the granite, stainless steel and bamboo custom finishes of Morgan Park Place.

The combination slide & jungle gym looks to be Jetsons-era.

Not exactly Dragon Park.

I think that this is supposed to be a sandbox. It looks more like a trash-burning pit.

Ironic Media Quote of the Day

Histrionics, exaggerations, and braying political proclamations [of bloggers] are signs of overwhelming self-importance and an easy way to ruin a thirst for knowledge.

- - Reporter Jason Shawhan, who could have just as easily been describing a couple of past Nashville Scene articles I've read

... and as if judging the "Best of Nashville" was not itself a braying exercise in self-importance. Excuse me while I button the flap in my pajama bottoms.

Convert or Be Taxed

The final two installments of the NY Times Business Section series on religion and government are out. If you read them, you'll see why religion has become a shelter for charlatans and hucksters: there's a lot of money to be made via tax breaks and special exemptions.

Highlights from yesterday's story, "Religious Programs Expand, So Do Tax Breaks"
  • A Roman Catholic charitable ministry is providing lovely, tax-exempt retirement living to affluent people (avg. net worth=$1 million), while other non-religious retirement communities are on the hook.
  • Working families pay more for services when wealthy families get property tax breaks simply because of the affiliation with organized religion.
  • Charity used to involve self-sacrifice; now it is almost exclusively successful marketing (whatever happened to the religious vow of poverty?).
  • Tax-exempt bonds for churches shift the local tax burden off of churches and on to the general citizenry, even though the latter does not get to enjoy the exempt properties unless they belong to the church memberships.
Highlights from today's story: "Religious-Based Tax Breaks: Housing to Paychecks to Books"
  • Non-religious nonprofits are just as cash poor as religious ones, but they don't get the same breaks.
  • Religious tax-breaks cost taxpayers $500 million per year in tax revenue.
  • Ministers are allowed to be conscientious objectors to contributing to Social Security; the problem is that so many do opt out of that obligation for financial, not religious reasons.
  • Religious publishers enjoy tax breaks than non-religious ones do not; is that fair competition?
The financial incentive for non-religious nonprofits and corporations to convert to some religion, any religion is clear, as is the danger that faith has either been reduced to profiteering or or been expanded to involve any good tax shelter having little to do with religion. It seems that the only good news organized religion offers the world today is a life exempt from taxes. There's little profound in that. I mean, what can a minister provide that a good financial advisor could not?

MNEA Turns the Tables on Critics

Paying teachers more based on student test score performance does not make them better teachers. It makes them better at teaching to certain tests. So, I don't have a problem with the MNEA rejecting extra money waved around in their face attached with stipulations of teaching to test. But the MNEA President's flanking countermove on the School Board was brilliant: spend the $400,000 directly on Alex Green and Inglewood elementary students rather on the teachers. It was moral jujitsu: now opponents who constantly wail that the teachers want more money for selfish reasons much lower than the children do not have a leg on which to stand. There is a certain level of hypocrisy in advocating incentive pay as being more "for the kids," when it really constitutes a means of doing as little as possible for education at minimal cost to taxpayers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The One Where Metro Council Members Become Lobbyists to the General Assembly

The proper operation of democratic government requires ... that members of the metropolitan council in the exercise of their official functions be independent, impartial, and responsible only to the people of Nashville and Davidson County.

- - The Code of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

And yet, Council Member Jim Gotto is introducing two bills next week that contravene state immigration laws in hopes of lobbying Tennessee's General Assembly to change its laws:
Gotto acknowledged these limitations [that his bills if passed cannot be enforced] but said he hoped the measures would still spark dialogue and put public pressure on the state legislature [to change their laws].
So, rather than introducing bills based on his legislative responsibilities in Nashville and Davidson County, Jim Gotto is resorting to what we might call "legislative activism," i.e., attempting to use his seat of power to influence the public into lobbying state legislators to follow his own political agenda.

Passing unenforceable laws is a waste of taxpayer money and council time. And I have to ask whether Mr. Gotto's attempt to influence the public rather than allowing the public to influence him violates the Metro Charter. Perhaps Jim Gotto should worry more about representing constituents and less about trying to marshal them to lobby for his cause.

Living the Plan: Won't See or Be Seen

Today is October 10--which is the deadline for RSVP'ing for the Living the Plan of Nashville session on October 18--and I am tossing my invitation. It looks like an important lunch and seminar for Nashille's design future, but costs (lunch, $70; seminar, $200) are budget-busting for us. Somebody who can afford to go will have to fill me in on the details.

Development Update: The Most Amazing Combination of Exterior Colors

And it is in Salemtown at the Clayton on 6th. It pops.